Hypocrisy, thy name is mainline Protestant

The last thing anyone wanted was someone stepping up to the microphone and asking, “Hey, didn’t we say we were going to divest from Israel a few years ago? What happened?”

Jesus Christ (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Jesus Christ
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
This past summer, the national assemblies of two liberal Protestant churches in the United States met in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to conduct church business and to issue a number of social justice statements. One of the churches, the United Church of Christ (UCC), refrained from passing any statements devoted entirely to the Arab-Israeli conflict, indicating that the denomination’s leaders have reached a point of embarrassed exhaustion regarding their pronouncements about the conflict. They should be embarrassed.
In 2015, the denomination’s General Synod passed a resolution calling on the church’s money managers to divest from companies that did business with Israel, but the sale of stock never took place. Four years later, the church’s Pension Board (PBUCC) still holds stock in a number of companies that were listed in the 2015 resolution.
In July, PBUCC issued a statement declaring that in its view, “Responsible investing should be a proactive, positive force, rather than a widely-held view that it relies solely on the negative, exclusionary screening of so-called ‘sin stocks.’” The statement, which didn’t get much attention, was a repudiation of the 2015 resolution, the whole point of which was get the PBUCC to engage in “exclusionary screening” of “sin stocks.”
Richard Edens, the pastor who chaired the committee that brought the divestment resolution to the floor of General Synod in 2015, made this clear when he told the gathered assembly: “We ourselves can no longer continue to profit from the violence that is consuming the land that we called holy.”
And yet that is exactly what the church, by its own lights, has continued to do. This helps explain why the denomination didn’t talk very much about the Arab-Israeli conflict at its 2019 General Synod in Milwaukee.
The last thing anyone wanted was someone stepping up to the microphone and asking, “Hey, didn’t we say we were going to divest from Israel a few years ago? What happened?” After a bit of hemming and hawing, the answer would be clear. For all the fanfare surrounding the resolution’s passage in 2015, it never had any force. The PBUCC was not bound by anything the General Synod called on it to do.
Instead of protesting the failure of the church to divest, the activists who pushed for the passage of the divestment resolution in 2015 and lauded the decision afterwards have cooperated with efforts to push the resolution down the memory hole. For anti-Israel activists, the 2015 divestment resolution is akin to the non-aggression pact that Molotov and Ribbentrop signed in 1939 – something better left unmentioned by the true believers in the cause.
People can still find the resolution on the website of the UCC’s Palestine-Israel Network, but they have to look pretty hard to find it. Palestinian Christian groups, which originally hailed the passage of the resolution, have not complained about the UCC’s failure to divest either. Collectively, they have become the dogs that didn’t bark.
SPEAKING OF dogs that didn’t bark, the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church met in Milwaukee a few weeks after the UCC had its meeting in that city. This assembly did pass a number of anti-Israel resolutions, not after any debate or public discussion but as part of a consent calendar which included many resolutions that were approved all at once. One resolution called on Lutherans to lobby the US government to send money to Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) in east Jerusalem.
The hospital needs the money because the Palestinian Authority – which has given millions of dollars to terrorists and their families – has been unable to pay the approximately $100 million it owes to AVH.
Did the resolution chide the PA for using money it should have used to pay its debts to AVH to fund its pay-to-slay program? Of course not! Like I said, these folks are the dogs that didn’t bark.
These assemblies offered little if any protest about Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protesters have, since June, been risking their lives in a showdown the Chinese government. Nor did these churches say a word about China’s efforts to suppress Christianity by bulldozing churches throughout the country.
Moreover, these churches have said nothing about China’s efforts to destroy the ethnic and religious identity of Uighurs, a Muslim minority, by turning their home province Xinjiang into a police state, putting people into concentration camps and destroying mosques. It goes without saying that these churches continued their policy of offering little, if any, criticism of the murder of Christians and other religious minorities by groups like ISIS in Syria and Boko Haram in Africa.
Commenting on jihadist violence against Christians and Yazidis might undermine the feel-good agenda that these churches have embraced when it comes to dealing with Christian-Muslim relations. And pointing out how businesses like Alphabet (which owns Google) and Apple have helped create a surveillance system in Hong Kong and Xinjang might prompt people to ask why there have been no calls to initiate a BDS campaign against China over its use of biometric data for its totalitarian pursuits.
The outrage and sanctimony of these and other mainline churches are directed toward the Jews and their state first – and, hypocritically enough, last.
They are the quintessential dogs that didn’t bark – except at the Jews, of course.
The writer is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA).